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Cocaine by Eric Clapton

Album: SlowhandReleased: 1977Charted:
  • This was written and originally recorded by the Oklahoma blues guitarist J.J. Cale. Clapton gave Cale a huge boost he recorded Cale's song "After Midnight" in 1970 and released it as his first solo single. This helped earn Cale a record deal and enough money to make music on his terms, which he did.

    Cale recorded "Cocaine" on his fourth album, Troubadour, which was released in 1976, and issued the song as the B-side of his single "Hey Baby," which was his last charting song as an artist, making #96 US.

    When Clapton was looking for songs for his Slowhand album, he once again looked to Cale, and chose "Cocaine," which became the first song on the set. Clapton would later cover Cale's song "Travelin' Light," and in 2006, the pair teamed up to record an album together called The Road To Escondido.
  • The lyrics are about drug addiction, something Clapton knew quite well. As he explained in his autobiography Clapton, when he recorded this song, he had kicked a serious heroin habit but was filling his body with cocaine and alcohol. His attitude at the time was that he could manage his addiction and quit at any time - he just didn't want to; that's why he could sing so objectively about a drug that was consuming him. When he finally did get off drugs and alcohol, he had to learn how to make music while sober, which was a big transition as everything sounded very rough to him. He also realized how damaging his addiction was to himself and others on a personal level, and became active in helping others get through their addictions; in 1998 he opened the Crossroads rehab center in Antigua, where clients go through a 29 day wellness-centered approach to treatment.
  • During the Slowhand sessions, Clapton and his band got to see a J.J. Cale concert, and Cale brought Clapton on stage to duet on this song.
  • This is one of Clapton's most famous songs, but the studio version was never released as a single. Clapton included the song on his 1980 live album Just One Night (Live At Budokhan), and the version from this show was released as the B-side of "Tulsa Time," which was also taken from the concert. This single charted at #30 in the US.
  • When J.J. Cale wrote this song, he envisioned it as a jazz number. His producer, Audie Ashworth, convinced him to make it a rocker, which required some overdubbing by Cale, since he played very simple guitar parts. Cale did three single-string overdubs of the riff. He played the bass himself, but had session pro Reggie Young play the guitar solo. Clapton's version has a much more complex guitar line and vocals that are more prominent in the mix.
  • Bob Rivers released a parody of this song called "Cobain," making fun of Kurt Cobain's drug use. Cobain killed himself shortly after it was released.
  • Glyn Johns produced this song. He had previously worked with Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.
  • At one point, Clapton removed this song from his set list because he thought it gave the wrong message about cocaine use. He started playing it again after he rearranged the song to include the line, "That dirty cocaine" into the choruses. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Dan - New York, NY
  • In 1988, Elton John and Mark Knopfler joined Clapton on stage to perform this at the 6th annual Prince's Trust Rock Gala. Proceeds from the show went to charity.
  • After Clapton recorded this song, J.J. Cale saw many new faces at his concerts, but many of them expected him to sound like Clapton. Cale didn't conform, and took a more laid-back approach to his next album, 5, which was released in 1979. There were no hits on that one, although a Santana cover of one of the cuts, "The Sensitive Kind," made #56 in 1981.
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Comments: 43

@Earl in Daytona Beach, FL; you're close, the lyric is: "she don't lie(X3) Cocaine"George - Vancouver, Canada
Eric Clapton's live version of this song was good. I liked the drumming. EC could never, in my mind, top the guitar playing that he did in the live, as well as the studio versions of Spoonful. Also, Cat's Squirrel. Jimi Hendrix expanded his song writing by use of special effect guitar components like the wah wah pedal, fuzz box and tremelo bar. He was open to trying new types of guitar special effects and composed phantastic songs with them.Jim - Enid, Ok
Is it me,or in the live version is the chorus [ she will lie,she will lie, she will lie cocaine?Earl - Daytona Beach, Fl
Actually this song was released as a single on RSO records in 1977. I have it on 45.Jason - Santa Barbara, Ca
umm cory who would name their daughter cocaine?John - Brownsvalley, Ca
brian is right! you can hear it... but its really quiet! might be a subliminal message?Erik - Brownwood, Tx
If you listen to this song very carefully I think he might be talking about drugs.It's very subtle so listen carefully.Brian - Boston, Ma
I remember playing this over and over in the arcade in 80.Lisa - Melrose, Wi
Growing up we always thought that one of the verses said..... Legalize... Legalize... Legalize.. COCAINE. Maybe We just wanted it to say that lol.. but Thats how a group of us used to sing it. Oh the young and innocent... just thought I'd share !~Kenzi - Riverside, Ut
this here is a gr8 song...best part is the simplicity of the basic notes...easy to pick up unlike say hotel calif...and this gives u a lot of room to "IMPROVISE" or improvisation as said...give it a try & u'll feel real goodNandha - Jamshedpur, India
Bear in mind - that most singer are not song writers. You would be hard pressed to find a band that didn't cover a song or sing someone else's song at some time or another...even the Beatles. It's a form of flattery really to be imitated. And yes it can get old, but you know no one says anything about Elvis (did he ever write anything?)There is an entire industry that write songs and sell them to record labels or to singers. And I believe Clapton wrote Layla, You Look Wonderful Tonight, Tears in Heaven...Oh, and Clapton is a master guitarist! In fact his songs are some of the most difficult for musicians to master or "cover" because he often would tune his guitar to a minor third and play in a different position. He also played in the band Cream and wrote song with them so to say he "never" wrote anything and is a scum bag - not sure why would would think that. And also, if you hate him so why you would bother to comment at all...Linc - Beaumont, Tx
blake is right. clapton was not graet, not good, not even descent. he was a washed up scum bag who had no originality and did covers. poeple who covered his songs made them famous, then years later people realize that clapton actually wrote and recorded it but it flopped so people like jimi hendrix had to cover it to make clapton look like he actually had something ggod out there. clapton bit big guys. he bit the big hairy one. sorry, that's the trurh.Robert - Los Angeles, Ca
ok this song is pretty cool not the coolest ever but cool. I would have to agree with josh from westborough.Blake - Tahlequah, Ok
When did Eric Clapton's version play on the air? Was it 1980 or sooner?Mark - San Francisco, Ca
This is the best song by Eric Clapton..i think its so catchy and it has a good rythemAvery - Bucksport, Me
sorry about that tirade in the above message. this song had a lot to do with studio 54. u would walk in and see 1000s of half-naked people, others behind the curtains having sex, and on the balcony they'd be serving cocaine. clapton was saying, if u wanted to hang out there, u pretty much had to do cocaine. otherwise, watching fat, naked senior citizens dancing might not be the way u want to spend ur saturday night.Josh - Westborough, Ma
i'm not sure, but i THINK this song is about cocaine. can someone clarify??? OF COURSE IT'S ABOUT COCAINE U (non-nice persons)!Josh - Westborough, Ma
MeL, South Australia,
Best clapton song??? only if this is the only one you've heard, come on, he has a huge list of amazing songs, this is good, but not the best sorry
Jared - Sacramento, Ca
The original song lyrics were "Champaign", not "Cocaine".Ben - Charlotte, Nc
Love J J Cale's version. The song has one of the greatest riffs ever created.Guy - Wellington, New Zealand
Actually, the song was released as a single. Just got finished playing it on my turntable. It was the live version, released on the RSQ label in 1980. The flip side of the 45 is the song "Tulsa Time".Mike - Hastings, Ne
Fun fact, Clapton stopped playing it for a while because he felt it gave people the wrong message about cocaine. When he brought it back to his set list, he arranged it so that the backup singers repeat the line, "that dirty cocaine." I dunno, i think its interesting.Dan - New York, Ny
This song is definitely about Cocaine. I don't know how you could say otherwise, just look at the lyrics, this is how I see it:

If you wanna hang out you've got to take her out.
If you wanna get down, down on the ground.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie;

The first verse is a bit ambiguous. The second line, "If you wanna get down" is straightforward, Cocaine. And the third, well I take this to mean, "Cocaine don't lie, cocaine don't lie, cocaine don't lie." Basically, things come out when you are on Cocaine that generally tend to be the truth.

"When your day is done and you wanna run. Cocaine." Basically, when you're feeling beat and need that pick-me-up, Cocaine.

"Don't forget this fact, you can't get it back.
Cocaine." I think of this as an innocence thing. Once you do it, you've done it and can't go back. It's always with you.
John - Southampton, Pa
Pinkard and Bowden did a classic parody titled "Propane". You gotta hear it. It's HILARIOUS.Zoloft - Milton, Wv
how ironic is it that some artists best material came out during their lowest times... best clapton song...Mel - South Australia, Australia
Theres no puns or metaphors to make you think anything else! It is strictly about cocaine as the song is titled. Look up the cause an effects of cocaine but view it as what the consumer sees an how it makes you feel! Its speed and hes describing it when you want to do it. Come on people, its not like your all angels on here someone can relate this!Danielle - West Chester, Oh
I think the song is talking about cocaine for the first verse, saying god knows what. Then its' saying what it does to you in the second verse and saying it's bad at the very end but i dunno. Kinda vague.
And there's nothign wrong with making a parody about Kurt Cobain. He was popular at the time and that was before he died, so it wouldn't be like disrespecting the dead
Kartik - Peace River, Canada
I know what you mean Robert. It's another way of saying "Duh!!"Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Seriously, is this song about drugs???J - Atl, Ga
Could it possibly be about a girl named cocaine. Erics mom doesnt like her, but he continues to see her anyway? Just a thought.Cory - Boonville, In
"Jimi's version is very good too." I think this came about after he died, so that would be quite a feat in itself. B.t.w. calling J.J. Cale a blues player is stretching things a bit.Martijn - Helmond, Netherlands
Does anyone agree with me that this song satirizes drug use more than promotes it? The lyrics are sort of built like a cheesy commercial for the new product "Cocaine".Ali - East Lansing, Mi
Actually, Tim, someone did do "Rogaine". I don't remember who did it, but I do remember hearing it on Dr. Demento's radio show in the early 1990s.Gerald - Stockton, Ca
Daniel from Australia. C'mon! I think most people would be surprised if the song wasn't about drugs. Hence the name cocaine.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
I'd like to hear somebody do a "Rogaine" version (if it hasn't been done already.)Tim - Oklahoma City, Ok
My theory is that this song is about Drugs.Daniel - Werribee, Australia
Bob Rivers is a jackass! How dare he release a song making fun of Kurt Cobain (I'm enraged even though it was 11 years ago).Matt - Millbrae, Ca
This song is # 58 on Guitar World magazine's 100 greatest guitar solos list.Dan - City, Ca
A live version of this was released around 1980, I remember the radio would play it a lot, I think it got to around #5 in the charts. And it went on and on and on way longer than it should have.Liquid Len - Ottawa, Canada
i like Eric Clapton, and he is one of the greatest guitarest ever, but ever notice how most of his songs are covers, in hs solo career and also with Cream they had many coversBlake - Kennesaw, Ga
my friend and i both thought it would be a good idea for the senior song our freshman year-because his brother and his friends were all into cokeBrady - Fort Stockton, Tx
this is probably the coolest, most badass song everVictor - Vienna, Va
Jimi's version is very good tooAndrew - Springfield, Mo
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